Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Crete, part two: Warren of the Nap-Infested Sleep Sleep Badgers (or: Too Sleepy, Didn’t Canyon)

Meskla, Crete, Greece (Mεσκλα, Κρήτη, Ελλάδα) 
18 July 2016
After our whirlwind first day in Greece, we slowed down for our second and spent a considerable chunk of it planning ferries and accommodation for the days to come.
We enjoyed breakfast out on our terrace (with cherries!), and swam and sunbathed for much of the day. We had a pool! What!
After lunch we had intended to go for a walk to the famous gorge nearby, but our plans were dashed when we fell asleep. For dinner we sautéed potatoes, roasted some capsicum and broke bread. We finished off the meal with a mysterious clear liquid that we had found in the fridge, determining it must be raki - a national drink of Greece and Turkey. With an aniseed flavour, it can be compared to ouzo and pastis, and though strong I didn't mind it. The regret of the evening was forgetting our tray of tomatoes roasting in the oven. We discovered after dinner that we had become amateur alchemists and turned food into carbon. Stoically, Fabienne attacked the tray head on and managed (after much elbow-greased scrubbing) to get it looking back to normal again! Legend.

19 July 2016
The nest day we headed west along the coast for Phalasarna, an archaeological site founded by Dorians (one of the four ethnic groups of Ancient Greece) around the 7th-century BC. 
Hellishly windy, my hair turned itself into knots even after I tied it securely into a bun, but nonetheless we had a good wander to see the ancient city. The surrounding area formed the epitome of the word "rugged", and with a clear blue sky it had a very Greek atmosphere.

The townsfolk came into some money around the 4th-century BC and built their home into an enviable city, with impressive buildings and a port. Remains of the old port could be seen, with steps leading down to (what would have been) the water's edge and rocks with holes carved in to moor boats. Phalasarna's downfall came soon after, with earthquakes and other natural disasters leading to the city's infrastructure crumbling. Many citizens took up piracy, which drew the attention of Rome. Unhappy with the rebellious city, Rome sent an army to all but destroy Phalasarna in 67BC. After that minor setback, a few survivors continued to live there and rebuild what they could, but only a few hundred years later an enormous earthquake raised the land 6.5 meters, rendering their precious dock useless (the sea is now 200 meters away from Phalasarna).

As we left the site, we photographed the so-called "throne". Though vaguely armchair-shaped, I have strong suspicions that this hunk of stone never acted as a means of seating, even two thousand years ago. You can do better, Dorians.

The nearby beach was a little more sheltered, but still dreadfully windy and I wasn't keen on going swimming as I knew as soon as I left the water I'd be chilled by the gusts.

The water was beautifully clear (though Yannick says it was cold) and there were a decent number of beach-goers laid out on the sand and lounge chairs, but it wasn't unpleasantly crowded.

Having heard of another nice beach, we drove to Elafonisi Beach, but could see from the approach that it was crazy busy! Too much crowds! Too many tourism! I don't doubt that it is a lovely place with white sand and turquoise water, and a small island that you can walk to from the beach as it's connected by a thin strip of land, but just no! I mean, look at how many cars and people!

Further along the coast, we visited Palaiochora, which had a sandy beach on one side and a rocky beach on the other side of the peninsula. At the end was a port, and up on top of the hill was an old Venetian fortress dubbed Selino Kasteli built in the 13th-century with wonderful views over the town.

Throughout the centuries, it had been conquered and then rebuilt several times. In 1539 it had even been sacked by the illustrious Ottoman admiral Barbarossa, making Palaiochora positively famous.

Now all that remains of Selino Kasteli are the most basic of ruins, but you could drive directly up from a dirt road near the port and park under some shady trees!
As the day was hot hot hot, we took a short break from Palaiochora to visit a nearby pebbly beach for swims and sunbathing. 

Heading back into the town to explore, we initially got lost in a maze of driveways, but found our way to pretty little streets leading to the seaside.

We briefly walked up to the church to snap a photo of the bell tower, which looked a lot like a Buddhist pagoda to me.

Though there were a few souvenir stalls and tourists with tramping shoes on, they didn't dampen the Greek charm that infused the town and instead, you got the feel of the place from the three-wheeled scooters and tavernas with tables spilling out onto the cobblestoned streets. 
Ready to call it a day, we drove back to our AirBNB and went for another swim. The sun had sunk behind the hill, casting our pool in shadow, but the water was still very warm. As we frolicked in our own tiny square man-made lake, we heard the front door slam and rushed over to see that we had been locked out by the wind. That fiendish wind at it again with his pranks! Luckily, Fabienne and François had opened the doors of the balcony on the first floor, so Yannick went all Assassins Creed and scaled the wooden trellis up to the balcony. It was super impressive and we all gave him high fives once we were inside and fully clothed again. 
After an aperitif of pink muscat wine, we descended the steep driveway to see if the local taverna was serving dinner. As we walked down the road, all heads turned toward us, the only foreigners in the village and therefore a spectacle. The taverna turned out to be closed for the day, so we whipped up a meal with whatever we had lying around: pasta with a lemon, garlic and raki sauce. I added balsamic vinegar and olives to mine, while Yannick threw on copious amounts of feta. It was delicious! We paired the meal with a white wine that Fabienne and François had acquired earlier in their travels on the island of Kefalonia. They’re legit island hoppers. 

Today's post was almost called: 'Mishaps in Utopia: Char-matos and a Ninja on the Roof'